Prussia: Attempt at a Balance Sheet

Hugh Rank is intrigued but bewildered by an exhibition on the rise of Prussia, held in a Berlin still coming to terms with its legacy.

To the younger generation the name 'Prussia' probably smacks of mythology rather than history. For older people it still carries feelings of repulsion. We associate it with militarism and aggression; we admire the Prussian virtues – obedience, duty, discipline – only with the vague alien interest that we take in a panopticon. We prefer saying 'It's a free country' to 'It's your duty'. We feel estranged from a people in which the concept of the Untertan (vassal) figures so high and that of freedom so low on their scale of priorities.

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